Heroes of the extreme.

The max is not enough for everyone: Hellgeth in the interview.

There are customers for whom an SL 500 is simply not fast enough. For them an AMG is the perfect answer. Anyone who finds a Unimog not quite extreme enough is advised to pay a visit to Hellgeth Engineering.

Hellgeth Engineering builds vehicles as its customers wish them.

Thick forest, on the border between Bavaria and Thuringia. The sonorous growl of a six-cylinder engine cuts through the dense greenery. The well-tuned ear recognises it as an OM 936, the almost 8-litre capacity in-line engine from Mercedes-Benz. Suddenly, a 5000 series Unimog breaks through the undergrowth. The raised chrome-plated exhaust pipes of the 'Mog' merrily trumpet the power of 300 horses and 1,400 newtonmeters of maximum torque. The driver is grinning widely ...

But hang on – something's not quite right here. A U 5023 with a six-cylinder engine? That's not part of the Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks range. True – but also not true. Because the U 5030 exists. It might not actually be built by Mercedes-Benz, but it still has the manufacturer's blessing. Hellgeth Engineering builds vehicles exactly as its customers wish them.

Very special 'Mogs', even for the most extreme tastes.

In fact, the power-Unimog from the extreme off-roader series is just one of many playgrounds for the inventive skills of the Hellgeth brothers Andreas (the project manager) and Jürgen (the engineer). The two have realised their dream of establishing their own vehicle-building business in the remote area close to the border of the state of Thuringia. Their customers come from all over the world: Russians looking to run their Unimog at freezing temperatures down to minus 50 degrees in Siberia. Middle-Eastern sheikhs looking to climb the steepest sand dunes at 40 degrees in the shade to find the best hunting conditions for their falcons. But also quite 'normal' globetrotters, for whom a standard Unimog is simply not enough.

We still put up a gear.

Andreas Hellgeth, Hellgeth engineering

An engine modification to cope with poor fuel quality; a chassis capable of easily meeting the challenges of the Rallye Dakar; a roll bar that will protect even in the event of the most dramatic roll-overs; or maybe some smart chrome so the Unimog doesn't look quite so much like a workhorse? Hellgeth can do it all. The Hellgeth brothers are convinced that real adventure begins where surfaced roads end. That is where the Unimog comes into its own. Whether on an expedition, for a race, a hunt, or just for fun: Hellgeth's modifications push the limits of extreme even further. There is only one thing that Hellgeth does not want: to be normal, providing off-the-peg products. So it's no wonder that the Unimog forms the basis for many of its modifications.

No matter how extreme the modification, servicing, maintenance and repairs can be handled by any Unimog service partner.

Unimog Magazine talked to Andreas Hellgeth about extremes.

How long has Hellgeth been going, and why is the company based in deepest Thuringia?
My brother and I established the business in the year 2000. We are located here in Rodacherbrunn – which really is way out in the forest. But the location offers the undeniable advantage that we can work on our vehicles completely undisturbed. And as we now know: anyone who wants to find us will do so (laughs).


What does Hellgeth do exactly?
In simple terms: we create custom modifications of Unimog vehicles.


How many people do you employ?
We have a staff of around 30, with various specialisms, working on a wide variety of design and engineering aspects and on different modifications. Our strength lies in our metalworking: turning, welding, milling, ... – We have a team of top-class craftsmen capable of meeting virtually any customer requirements, complete with our own in-house engineering department. We understand Hellgeth to be a creator of custom vehicle solutions.

A look into the workshop: The Unimog is the basis of many conversions by Hellgeth engineering.
The employees specialize in various trades.
In metal construction lies the strength of Hellgeth engineering.
An own design department takes care of the engineering.
A look into the workshop: The Unimog is the basis of many conversions by Hellgeth engineering.

Where does your own expertise have its roots?
It all began because we ourselves travelled the world in camper-vans and special expedition vehicles. At some point we reached the limits of what was available, and were unable to find the solutions we were seeking. So we started thinking about creating our own. From then on, it became inevitable that we would establish our own business. Over time, word got around about what we were capable of, and demand rose. Our range then expanded in line with our customers' needs and wishes. Today there’s pretty much nothing we can't do. The only problem is that, sadly, we now barely have time to go on expeditions ourselves.


What type of vehicle solutions does Hellgeth build exactly?
Many of our customers' wishes relate to vehicle customisations, or to modifications for expedition purposes, such as modified fuel tanks or shock absorbers and fitting of cable winches – all the things that customers need for off-road adventures.


What does the term 'off-road' actually encompass?
Driving through deep water, in the desert, through mud, or in winter at very low temperatures. We specialise in delivering solutions whenever conditions get really extreme – that's where our strengths lie.

The extremely flexible vehicle frame of the Unimog can not be scared of any terrain.
The U 4023 seems downright proud of its extras.
The special truck offers ample space for individual bodies.
Stones and mud do not bother the all-rounder.
Hellgeth engineering customers come from all over the world.
The fording depth of the Unimog can even be increased.
Hellgeth engineering realizes what customers want.
The loading of the Unimog U 4023 is easy.
Among other things, many customer requests relate to the installation of winches.
In addition to conversions, the vehicles can also be finished.
The headlights look great, too.
The extremely flexible vehicle frame of the Unimog can not be scared of any terrain.

What do your customers do with the vehicles?
Our customers mostly drive in terrain which is not accessible by standard camper-vans or recreational vehicles – which is why we customise the extreme off-road Unimog as a camper or for expeditions. Our Unimog customisations go one step further in enabling our customers to get to places that no one else can.


Are there some special solutions that occur to you spontaneously?
One time we built a Unimog with deep wading capability for disaster relief operations in Mexico. The vehicles were able to drive through two metre deep water with ease. That was really impressive, because at that depth the water is actually brimming on the windscreen.


How do you work with Mercedes?
We work very closely with the Wörth plant on many projects. Our U 5030 model – that is, our modification of the standard four-cylinder engined extreme off-roader Unimog to a six-cylinder – can be purchased from any Unimog dealer. We're proud of that of course.


Do standard Mercedes-Benz warranties still apply?
There are vehicles to which the manufacturer's warranty is retained without restriction. Where the degree of modification exceeds a certain scope, Hellgeth itself provides the standard warranties.


What does a Hellgeth Unimog cost?
I can't give you a single figure across the board. It depends on what the customer wants. We place great value in discussing everything with the customer in person – and also in consultation with Mercedes-Benz. We don‘t publish a catalogue.


Source: Unimog magazine 2/2018
Text: Gerhard Grünig
Photos: Henrik Morlock

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